Mementos of loss

I can’t fathom the pain of losing a child.

Happy topic, right? I know!

Sometimes we may try to imagine that pain, maybe to prepare ourselves should it ever come. But I’m sure it’s never anything that we can actually conceptualize until we go through it.

courtesy of Danka K

My good friend Reba has a friend who lost a child at birth. The umbilical cord was not only wrapped around the baby’s neck, but also tied in a knot. She went into labor, and the baby died during delivery.

The mother has taken steps to find help and comfort, joining a neonatal death support group. But she’s a single woman, having separated from her fiance during the pregnancy. Most of the other members who had endured similar pain alongside her are now entering new phases of their lives, welcoming living children into their families. They are taking a step that she isn’t, possibly finding closure or relief that she can’t just yet. It’s been almost two years, and she still signs both of their names in notes and cards to friends and family.

I read an account once, I can’t remember where, of a mom who lost her baby at birth or shortly after. Her nurse offered to take photos of her with her baby, so she could hold onto those memories. She declined. The thought of photos with her deceased baby sickened her. It sounded creepy.

The nurse insisted. She took photo after photo, using numerous disposable cameras they had stowed away at the nurse’s station.

The mother later said that she treasures those pictures more than anything in the world. She is so grateful that the nurse didn’t take no for an answer.

Reba’s friend has photos like these. Beautiful, serene photos of her daughter in her arms, swaddled in a snuggley blanket, wearing a little knit pink cap. To anyone else, she’s just sleeping the beautiful sleep of a newborn.

Tucked delicately into a tiny wooden casket.

My eyes welled up with tears as Reba, who has also suffered fetal loss at 10 weeks, showed me these photos, part of a scrapbook she’s putting together for her friend, a beautiful memento of the little angel with whom she didn’t get to spend nearly enough time. They’re peaceful, serene, and heart wrenching. I found myself shedding tears for a baby I never knew, for a women I had never met. The unfinished scrapbook pages overflowed with love that Reba had put into them for her friend.

I’m sure when her friend receives the gift, she will again be shaken with sadness. She’ll cry tears she thought she had long since exhausted.

And I know this beautiful book of memories of her daughter will be one of her most treasured possessions for as long as she lives.

Join the Conversation


  1. This is so moving. Reba is a really caring friend. It is so interesting how we all process "loss" in our own ways. So, so hard.

  2. Wow. I have a friend who lost her son during childbirth and have been thinking about writing a post about it. I can't imagine going through anything much harder than the loss of a child.

  3. Reba is a good friend. So many people shy away from loss especially after years have gone by.

  4. I have those pictures and they are my link to my son. It's a beautiful thing your friend is doing.

  5. wow… what an incredible friend. And such a difficult thing to have to deal with especially on your own. It was always one of my worst fears.

    I lost a child close to 12 weeks and it was the worst thing I've lived through.

  6. I have a friend who gave birth to a stillborn. He was full term.
    They took pictures and talk of him frequently.
    She now has another baby who is healthy but they still continue to talk of her first.
    I think this is so healthy.
    I hope your friend Reba finds peace. Although when you've lost a child I don't know if one can ever fully find that.

  7. I was able to hold my son in my arms for 17 hours before he took his very last breath, what an honor and privilege that was. I was also a single women having separated from my sons father before birth. I had a friend with me at Thomas birth and she took some amazing pics which I truly treasure and it makes his short time here more tangible for love goes out to your friend and her friend

    1. Thank you for your comment. I can’t image how hard that must have been, but what a treasure you have now in those photos.

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